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Closure of our Melbourne Showroom; and Future Directions

Our bricks & mortar store at Smith Street, Collingwood, closed on 16th June, 2019. As of that date we are trading only on-line.

The store was established in August 1995 and quickly became something of an institution in Melbourne, being Australia’s first dedicated vegan shoe store, and subsequently becoming the first and only place where vegan footwear was manufactured locally. It was feasible to set up a manufacturing unit in the latter half of the 1990’s because, as a result of our government’s free trade policies, local factories were closing up or re-locating to Asia. Second hand machines could be picked up pretty cheaply, and there were plenty of people trained in the factory environment who were being retrenched and were looking for work.

However, those two circumstances were only temporary. Soon all the factories were gone – meaning no more cheap machines, few local suppliers, fewer and fewer mechanics specializing in footwear machinery, and an almost non-existent trained sector workforce.  From about 2012 things started to feel too hard and we concluded that we would need to transition to a different business model. We finally closed our manufacturing unit in June 2018, and a year later the shop was closed.

It probably wasn’t inevitable that the workshop and the retail showroom would close. Had the business been able to grow to a larger scale, with a unity of purpose, things may have been different – maybe. However, as it happened, the company directors were ideologically divided – one remained fiercely loyal to the notion of exclusive local production, and the other advocated at least a partial transition to overseas manufacture. There were persuasive arguments in favour of each approach, but the sad outcome was that in the absence of a clear shared vision insufficient thought and effort was devoted to securing our future under either or both paths. Various windows of opportunity opened and then closed and we were not adequately prepared to make the best of these.

In 2015 we decided to phase down local production and the workshop was finally closed three years later. And as time passed it became apparent that our overseas manufacturing capacity was not sufficiently diverse or evolved to support a single stand-alone retail operation. So the decision to close the showroom quickly followed.

For the time being we will be selling down existing inventories. Later we will be releasing a new range of shoes and boots manufactured overseas to our detailed specifications. Hopefully these will be the best vegan shoes yet!

 

Vegan Wares: Stepping towards new horizons

Hello to our loyal supporters!

This is just a quick note to let you know about some big changes that are underway here at Vegan Wares, and open discussion about any number of exciting possibilities.

As you are aware, for the past 23 years, our main focus has been to manufacture quality vegan footwear in-house. Over recent years however, due to key personnel changing careers, and the art of handmade shoes becoming a dying trade, in-house manufacturing has simply become too difficult for us to maintain. After much deliberation, we closed our workshop in June 2018.

Whilst our mission – to create genuinely sustainable products that help reduce animal cruelty and benefit the planet on a larger scale – is still the same, we have been contemplating the best platform from which to serve our customers in the future.

Rather than coming to decisions behind closed doors, we want to consult first with you, for without your support, Vegan Wares certainly wouldn’t have made it through the last 23 years.

These are some of the questions we will be considering over the next few months:

Should we continue with the bricks & mortar retail outlet, or become an on-line only store? Should we continue to support the few remaining local footwear manufacturers? Should we bring in a new partner with new interests and energies? Should we merge/collaborate with another like-minded business?

We are open to all ideas and suggestions. If you would like to discuss any of these matters with us, or if you have a proposal you’d like to throw on the table, send us an email, or pop into the shop. We are very excited to see where the next year will take us.